Lotus Shoes and the Origin of the Name

Lotus shoes were traditionally small sheath or cone shaped shoes that were traditionally worn by Chinese women who had been subject to the traditional Chinese practice of binding a female child’s feet.
This practise consisted of binding the child’s feet with lengths of cloth. This would be done whilst the child was still very young and still an infant. The feet would be tightly bound with lengths of cloth and literally bandaged very tightly to prevent the child’s feet from forming and developing properly.

Why was this practised? Chinese culture perceived petite female feet as beautiful especially if they could be bound and literally trained and restrained by tightly bound strips of cloth to resemble the ideal of a three inch golden Lotus.

The practice can originally be traced as far back into the past as the Latter Tang Dynasty of China dating from the period 923 AD until 936 AD. It began in the palace but soon became commonplace for most female infants to have their feet bound in order to achieve the small foot required to wear Lotus shoes. The Manchuria, the founders of the Qing Dynasty between 1644 until 1911, banned the practise of binding girl’s feet but there are still elderly women from the remote provinces of China who are living examples of the traditional practise of children having their feet bound from infancy. The practise of foot binding was still continuing even when China became a Republic but it is now finally perceived by Modern Chinese culture as an archaic custom because it is impractical to have such small feet to carry out ordinary tasks and because it is no longer perceived as attractive anymore but rightly perceived as a deformity to perfectly normal feet.

Binding causes the feet to be abnormally small and stunted and can make everyday tasks very difficult. Some sources date the practise as far back in Chinese history as the Sung Dynasty of 960 BC-976 BC allegedly to imitate the Imperial court concubines who were reported to have danced with their feet bound. Bound feet can make walking very difficult though, never mind dancing,but by the twelfth century the practise of foot binding was common throughout China’s Provinces.

Medical conditions such as damage to the hip and spine were inevitable for those women who had their feet bound. When a child was over three years old, the foot binding would begin. Every toe except the first one would be broken and then the foot would be bound tightly to prevent the foot from growing normally. It would lead to the soles of the feet becoming concave and has been the cause of many disabilities for older women in modern day China that had been subjected to foot binding.

One strange consequence of the tradition of foot binding has also been that elderly Chinese women who have the extraordinary small bound feet are finding it very difficult to obtain shoes for the minuscule feet. Lotus Shoes is now the brand name of a modern footwear company that is not linked to the practise of foot binding in any way and has not been in the past in any way at all. The last true Lotus shoes factory of China closed down many years ago but there are still examples to view in museums around the world and if you are very observant you may see a living and breathing example of an elderly Chinese women, who’s feet have been found, on a quiet village in a province in China although it is unusual and rare now to see a living example.

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